Christina Rahm was an actor. She is one of the few eighteenth-century women in that profession who is referenced in literature.
Christina Rahm was born into the Svea Artilleriregimente (Svea artillery regimental) congregation in 1763. There are no verifiable sources for the earliest years of her career. The first time she is mentioned is in 1788 when she travelled to Gothenburg in the company of the theatre director Carl Stenborg and his wife and some other actors. Christina Rahm was named amongst the list of actors and she was only 15 years old at the time.
Carl Stenborg was the dominant force of Stockholm’s theatre life at this point. He was actually an opera singer who, in 1780, had taken over the running of Svenska Theatern, later known as Stenborgs Teater, from his father Petter. Plays were performed at the theatre in French, often using hired French drama troupes. In contrast light entertainment plays were performed in Swedish at Stenborgs Teater. Although these less serious plays had often been translated from French originals they contained common elements which reverberated with the audiences.
How and why Christina Rahm entered Stenborgs Teater ensemble as a young teenager remains unclear. There are unsubstantiated claims that she actually joined the ensemble before 1788. It was not unusual for promising young talent to be taken in and trained. Perhaps, just as had happened with Jenny Lind and Christina Nilsson, Christina Rahm began performing with her beautiful voice as a child? And perhaps, upon her father’s death, Christina Rahm came to be taken care of by Stenborg? There are several references to her beautiful singing voice and how this made her “one of the theatre’s most usable actresses”.
Stenborgs Teater was located at the Eriksberg property, a two-storey building which dated from 1669 and had previously served as a warehouse. The stage occupied the shorter side of a long, narrow, and low-ceilinged hall on the second floor which could seat about 200 people. A special staircase had been built from the outside directly into the ‘premiärloge’ (premiere seats) as the indoor staircase was narrow and uncomfortable. The building was situated at the edge of town, in an area without streets known as “Träsket”, and for those who could not afford to hire a carriage it took a long time to get there. Nevertheless, the theatre was popular and successful.
In 1784 the theatre moved to newly-built premises at the Munkbro, which was a major improvement. King Gustav III contributed generous funds and the castle architect was also engaged to take charge of the interior design and decorations. The premises were on the first floor and the ceiling was at the proper height. In 1788 the theatre changed its name to Komiska teatern. It became the first permanent theatre for Swedish drama and it was a success.
It was here that Christina Rahm, who was at this point married to Jacob Rahm, the hairdresser at Operan, performed in a long series of plays. For example, in 1784, a production of The King and the Gamekeeper was put on. This was a comic opera in three acts by Michel Jean Sedaine with music by Pierre Alexandre Monsigny. The play had already been running for two decades in France and now gained its Swedish breakthrough. Furthermore, it was performed with a ‘full orchestra’, which beguiled the Swedish audiences. The tunes they played were said to have been ‘captivating’ according to contemporary accounts. This was the most involved operetta that Stenborg had hitherto produced. Over the course of the years it was performed many times, until 20 October 1792. Christina Rahm played the part of Jenny, which was one of the leading roles.
Christina Rahm, often referred to as Mrs Rahm, performed frequently in a variety of productions through the years. This was on top of the five pregnancies she underwent between 1785 and 1790. It is quite clear that Christina Rahm and her husband lived in very precarious circumstances. On several occasions so-called ‘benefit’ performances were put on which meant that the income generated from entrance fees would be given to a particular actor. More of these ‘benefit’ performances were held on Christina Rahm’s behalf than anyone else.
Everything changed on 28 March 1792. King Gustav III died which resulted in a change in the royal court’s attitude toward the theatre. Carl Stenborg tried, following the theatre’s almost immediate closure, to restart his theatrical enterprise. In 1795 Komiska teatern only produced two new ‘song-plays’, namely Sargines and An Italian in London. Christina Rahm appeared in both of them.
The last performance at Komiska teatern was held on 16 April 1799. Despite this turn of events Christina Rahm was not left unemployed. She immediately found employment with Johan Anton Lindkvist, another theatre director, and she performed in various rural towns until 1800 when the ensemble found itself in Gothenburg. That same year Jacob Rahm died of tuberculosis. Christina Rahm was thus left widowed with two surviving children. The statement of poverty generated on the death of her husband reveals that the couple had no assets.
Christina Rahm performed with the Carl Stenborg rural ensemble in Gothenburg until 1809. In 1810 her name appears in the residents list, noted as impoverished and in poor health, a member of the Jakob and Johannes congregation in Stockholm, and provided for by the congregation’s poor relief. She died in 1837 due to advanced age, at 74. Her long and successful acting career was by then already long forgotten.